Monday, December 30, 2013

THANK YOU FOR TEACHING ME TO DREAM

I am posting a copy of the last of my 2013 Studio/Gallery 5 e-newsletters which I sent two days ago, followed by a few comments inspired by my daughter Sara's response.

DREAMS OF A YOUNG ARTIST

Oh to be young and fearless again.  Actually just being young again would do, but for the sake of this letter fearless has to be part of the mix. Encouraged by commercial success during my early years as an artist, I harbored ambitious dreams for myself.  One of them was to see my art on the cover of the New Yorker magazine.  I was convinced I could make that happen.  In fact I was so confident that I created a series of paintings, composed to fit the cover of the magazine and accommodate the text.   Eventually reality intervened and I never queried the magazine with my cover art.  (I learned that they do not accept un-solicited artwork.)  I later sold several of the paintings, but a few remain, resting quietly in a file drawer in the gallery.
    



       

        I am not haunted by the dreams that never made it, because so many did.  (I still think they would have made great covers.)  If you don’t allow yourself a dream, you can be sure it will never happen.  If you allow yourself a dream, there is always the chance it may happen.  The choice is ours, and I choose to dream, even as an old artist.

THANK YOU FOR TEACHING ME TO DREAM

Responding to my newsletter, Sara wrote this simple line:  I love these dad.  Thank you for teaching me to dream.

The sentiment expressed in those 7 words – “Thank your for teaching me to dream” - fills me with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment  beyond my ability to describe.  Teaching my children to trust and to nurture their dreams was very important to me.  (It is probably more accurate to describe my role as allowing and encouraging them to dream rather than teaching them.)  The message is a simple one; not everyone can be whatever they want to be, or do whatever they want to do.  But everyone can try.  And dreams are both the foundation and the force that sustain these efforts.  These are not mindless, pie in the sky dreams detached from reality.  These are the dreams that determine who we are, and how we choose to live our lives, dreams that call on us to use all of our facilities to achieve our goals, dreams that take us from within ourselves into the world around us.

There are no guarantees or promises of success and happiness, and the satisfaction of knowing we made the effort may be the only reward. 
 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

MY BOOKS part 1


MY BOOKS   part 1



For 10 years, starting in the mid 1970s,  a small, 5x8 bound sketchbook was my constant companion.  It was with me all day, every day, at home, in the office, the Emergency Room, or on out of town trips.  They were the repositories for comments, doodles, drawings, and assorted nonsense, all recorded with a pen; pencils were not allowed.

They helped be survive the most tumultuous years of my life, the transition from medicine to art, a devastating divorce, and shift work in a busy city Emergency room.  Once the transformation was complete and I settled into my new life 24 books were retired to a shelf in my study, a constant reminder of what once was.

Now, some 30 years later, I find myself going back into their pages, retrieving memories and reliving some of the hopes and fears of those very intense years, reminding myself of what I wanted, what I’ve gained, and what I’ve lost.   I can honestly say that I have achieved most of what I wanted.  I have lost much, but gained far more.

Occasionally the books themselves were a source of inspiration.

BOOK 22 (with apologies the RMR)

What will you do book when I die?
When my pen and wit go dry.
When I your life and line slip by
To that giant sketchbook in the sky?

Who will remain to touch your page?
My dearest Patience in her old age?

Nay I fear this will not be...

And dearest Patience answered me

“He wonders who when it’s not he?
Who will this mystery being be?
Who will bless this book with poem and pen?
Tis Billy boy who will draw again,
with words of gold and gifted zen.
But “lo, you cry, he can’t, he’s dead”
And so is this book as it’s been said.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

CHRISTMAS EVE REFLECTIONS

-->
Christmas Eve, 2013


It is 9;30, and I’m sitting in our living room, surrounded by the warmth of Patience’s Christmas décor, our lovely tree, and the sound of Christmas music coming from my computer.  The room is still, and there is nothing than can add to the elegance and solitude of the moment.  I am lost in the memories of Christmas Eves past, my parents, my children, and the wonderful sadness tit all bring to me

But there is more.  The one thought that intrudes on all of this is how fortunate I am to be where I am, and to have all that I have.  I am a wealthy man.  I am healthy.  I have a loving wife and family. I have caring friends,  I have a warm and comfortable home.  I have food to eat.  I have meaningful work.  And I have hope and purpose.  What more can anyone ask for?   More things?  A bigger house?  More social statue?  I don’t think so. 

And I ask myself, why?  Why me?  What did I do to deserve this life of mine?  I did not get to choose my parents, or the culture in which I was reared.  I did not get to choose my aptitudes, my personality, and whatever gifts and talents I may have.  I had no major obstacles to overcome in my life.  I simply did what seemed to be the thing to do  I worked hard, but no harder than many others.  There is now way that I can take credit for my life, because I was never faced with a choice to do or be other than what I am.  Even when it came to the difficult choice between medicine and art, I felt I was only following what was intended for me.

There are many who have more than I do, and probably even more who have much less.  It is my unwavering conviction that with few exceptions, their fates were predetermined by circumstances – parents, families, genes, and fate.  It is too easy to take more credit than is deserved for our successes, and to blame the less fortunate for their misfortunes.   

AN ARTIST'S LAMENT





We are all idiots, idiots we are,
Sometimes I wonder how we’ve gotten this far.

On roads of trust and paths of glory,
Working hard to tell our story.

We build our lives on hopes and dreams,
Achieving some, or so it seems.

But are there choices for you and me,
As we strive to claim our destiny?

Does it matter, do we care,
As we follow our dreams everywhere?

Sometimes we’re up, sometimes out,
From affirmation to relentless doubt.

Why go this way, for goodness sake?
There must be other paths to take!

2003

Monday, December 23, 2013

THE GIFT OF FAMILY part 5 of 5


I am an only child because a major obstetrical disaster directly related to physician blunder prevented my mother from having more children. For the first 18 years of my life ours was a family of three plus, the plus being the occasional aunt, uncle, or cousin who lived with us for several months or more in the farmhouse that my grandfather built.  Between my many cousins and the large family on the farm across the road I was unaware of being an only child during my early years.  It was experiencing the relationships my parents had with my aunts and uncles that instilled in me an appreciation for the bonds of family, bonds of love that withstand the unavoidable conflicts and separations by time and distance.  These same bonds now connect me to my many first cousins and their children.

I remember clearly a time during my high school years when there was a rift between my father and one of his sisters; it lasted about a year and later no one could remember what it was about (at least that is what I was told.)  During that time my father always insisted that I go visit my aunt, and never uttered a disparaging word about her in my presence.  Family was more important to him than any disagreement with his sister.  I find it very difficult to understand how some families can be so torn apart - bonds severed or perhaps never developed.  However, as an only child I suppose I cannot understand the issues and tensions that can develop between siblings.

The Renzullis

The Rondinellis

I am grateful for the family I had, and still have.

These gifts that I have been describing in a most simplistic and brief manner, alone or together are all a reflection of the gift of love.  Without a foundation of love, they would not be possible.  Love is the greatest gift we can give or receive.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

GIFTS part 4

-->
THE GIFTS OF COMPASSION AND CARING

In the years following the end of WW II there was an influx of Eastern European Jewish immigrants into our region of south Jersey.  Many of them went into poultry farming which provided a modest income in those days before the mega farms emerged.  Through his involvement in the local farmers co-op by father became acquainted with many of them, and friends with several of the families.  Chaim, a small wiry man with a face that reflected the pain of losing his wife and son to the concentration camps from which he escaped, purchased a small farm near ours.  He knew little about the business and turned to my father for help and guidance, working on our farm, as he started his own.  Chaim and Riffka, his second wife, became family, and I remember my mother serving him hot tea for lunch in glass cups.   My parents had a similar relationship with another family several miles from our farm.  When their new baby was discovered to have a congenital heart condition my father made several emergency trips to the hospital in Philadelphia, often in the middle of the night.  Those two families adored my parents who gave to them unconditional caring and support. 

No words were ever spoken to me about what they were doing and why.  They were un-necessary.  The lesson was there for me to see and to live.  They had little, but gave abundantly of themselves.

Rifka, Chaim, boy? and my father


Saturday, December 21, 2013

GIFTS part 3

-->
THE GIFTS OF HONESTY AND HOSPITALITY

I never heard my parents utter a disparaging word about others...unless it was in a heated political discussion which my father loved to engage in.  Everyone who came into our home was treated with the same warmth and hospitality, regardless of who they were; the banker who held our mortgage or the man helping my father on the farm received the same welcome in our home.  There were no airs, no pretensions, and certainly no signs of either inferiority or superiority.  Everyone gathered in the kitchen where they were always offered coffee or wine, and if the time was right, food, and I mean ALWAYS.  We did have a front door that opened on to the sun porch and living room, but it was never used.  Everyone knew to come to the back door and into the kitchen.  On special gatherings we would move into the dining room, but for the most part it was the kitchen. 

My parents made everyone feel welcomed and at home.  I don’t know how many times I was told by friends visiting our home how wonderful my parents were and how they loved visiting them.  They made people feel good!  There are few things that disappoint me more than learning that someone I admire and respect has double standards in their treatment of and behavior towards people of different socio-economic status or positions.  A true judge of character is the way someone treats the janitor, and not the CEO or chairman of the board.

I enjoy cooking, nothing fancy, just 101 ways to serve pasta.  Even more, I love to share our meals with friends and neighbors.  The evenings begin in the kitchen where we can comfortably seat 5 people around our island, and enjoy wine, cheese, and whatever else I can find in the pantry or refrigerator, while I prepare the dinner.  More often than not we remain in the kitchen for the remainder of the meal.  We can be more formal, and on some occasions we move our gathering to the dining room, but always the spirit is easy and light with no effort to impress anyone.  Ok, I will admit that I try it impress our guest with the pasta.  I love the food and wine, the conversation and the laughter, and I want our guests to feel good, to be glad that they are with us.

 I know that through these experiences I am paying homage to my mother and father by sharing their gifts with others. 

These are gifts that we can share with others simply by living them, and in this quiet living, make our world just a little bit better.

Friday, December 20, 2013

GIFTS part 2

-->
THE GIFTS OF RESPECT, TRUST, UNDERSTANDING, AND FORGIVENESS

It was an A-ha moment that I still remember some 30 years later.  My oldest daughter was 13 years old when it hit me like a slap on the head; parents could do and say all the right things and still not have total control over their child’s destiny. I believe this is one of the most difficult aspects of parenting, understanding and accepting the fact that we never have complete control; there are many elements in our children’s lives that are beyond our reach.  Failing to acknowledge this, and the excessive imposition of parental will and control can be just as harmful as neglecting parental responsibilities.  Wise parents know when to step back and show trust in their child, when to allow them to make healthy mistakes, and when to accept their decisions, never easy calls to make.

My parents trusted me, they set boundaries and made it clear what was expected of me, but at the same time gave me room to make my own decision, both good and bad.   They never discouraged me from pursuing some task or project or diminished my ideas.  I was never expected to take over the family farm; it was an unspoken given that I would go to college to prepare for a career of my own choice.  They did not push me into one direction or another.  My first choice was pharmacy, no doubt influenced by my years of working in our local pharmacy.  After one year in pharmacy school I decided my future was in medicine, and my parents accepted that, despite the hardships it would create for them.  I knew they were proud of me.  They had accomplished what so many of their generation tried to do, to see that their children had a better life than they did.

I can only imagine what they thought when I told them that I wanted to pursue art, not as a hobby, but as a career to be shared with medicine.  The only thing they asked me was, “are you sure this is what you want to do”.  When I said it was, any disappoint they may have felt was kept to themselves, and they offered me nothing but encouragement.  My parents never failed to respect my decisions.

Respecting and accepting choices of those we love and care about, especially when they are different, or in opposition to our own, is often difficult to do.  But doing so is a testament to our love.   It is a gift that is ours to give.

Forgiving others can be a difficult challenge, especially if we are deeply involved on a personal level.  The act of forgiveness is intrinsically linked to one’s capacity for trust, respect, and self-esteem.  It is a gift that we give to others as well as ourselves.  To deny forgiveness is to do irreparable damage to a relationship.  To extend it is a step in repairing that relationship as well as removing a festering emotional boils in our soul.  Forgiveness benefits everyone.



THE GIFT OF COMFORT AND SECURITY

Thanks to this gift, I can look back on my childhood as idyllic.   Life for me on our farm was a fun adventure shared with friends and family.  Although an only child, I enjoyed the companionship of neighbors, friends, and endless cousins, and all the benefits of life on a farm in a small town.  Like so many farmers of my father’s generation there was never much money, but I never felt poor or deprived.  Years later I realized that my childhood was wonderful because my parents protected me from the hardships they were experiencing.  While life was good for me, they were dealing with the never-ending stress of making enough money to keep the farm operating and paying off the ever-present debts.  Like all farmers, my father worked long hours 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year, and my mother from time to time worked in one of the many small clothing factories located in town.  She did this even as she cooked, made bread, pasteurized our milk and made butter, and did all the housework, plus feeding the endless stream of visitors every weekend.  Life for my parents was a struggle, with difficulties and disappointments that they faced without tainting my life with any anger or bitterness they might have felt.  They shielded me from the insecurities they routinely faced for so many years.

Like so many of the gifts they gave me, it was only later in my adult life that I came to appreciate this gift of a happy and secure childhood. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

GIFTS part 1



Not all gifts come wrapped in colorful paper with a pretty bow.  The gifts we give of ourselves, from our hearts, out of love and commitment, are such gifts.  They cannot be confined by space or time, and the exchange may last a lifetime, or a moment. They have many names, and frequently overlap one another - the gift of love, the gift of self-respect and self-esteem, the gift of trust, the gift of family, the gift of compassion and caring, the gift of understanding and forgiveness, and the gift of comfort and security.      

These precious gifts are given silently, without fuss or fanfare.  As a parent we give them to our children.  As husbands or wives we give them to our spouses.  We give them freely to our family, our friends, and when the opportunity arises, to others.  We do this because it is the right thing to do; it is who we are.   

It was well into adulthood when I became fully conscious of the many gifts given to me by my parents, and the role they have played in my life.  These words are a tribute to Josephine and Spartaco Renzulli, my parents to whom I owe so much.



Good things have happened to me in my life; I have been blessed with gifts and opportunities for which I can take no credit.  And in the rare dark days that I have experienced, there were dear friends who cared for me and supported me, helping me move beyond the sadness and pain to a place to heal.
What I have to say about gifts, and my understanding of them, is based on my personal experience with my parents and my family.  These gifts were generously bestowed upon me, by my remarkable parents.  I have tried to pass them on to my children, and to share them with others.  These are the gifts each of us can give to the world.

I was blessed at birth.

THE GIFT OF SELF-ESTEEM


One of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is a healthy sense of self-esteem, instilling in them the idea that they are persons of worth, healthy that the praise and accolades are appropriate and not mindless and unwarranted.  Excessive, unwarranted praise can be just as damaging as the withholding of approval.

I have grown to appreciate the immense value of this precious gift, and the important role it plays in our lives.  Withholding this gift from a child can have devastating consequences later in life.  It is difficult to pursue dreams and set lofty goals if you feel you are unworthy or undeserving.

Although I was not conscious of it at the time, I grew up feeling good about myself.  This did not prevent me from experiencing the usual adolescent crisis of self-confidence, especially where girls were involved, and later as an adult feeling somewhat uncomfortable in certain social settings.  But even then, at a deeper, core level, I thought of myself as OK, and could not imagine anyone not liking me.  As a parent I wanted to pass this gift on to my children; wanting them to know they were important individuals, and that they were loved.  This meant showing them and telling them. The gifts of self-esteem and love are intrinsically linked; it is difficult to imagine one without the other.   Some parents have a problem with saying, “I love you” to their children, and offer their love by their actions.

To our friends and others, we quietly nurture self-esteem by simply being a friend, offering support, encouragement, and caring.

Monday, December 9, 2013

WINDS OF TIME

Winds of Time




The winds of time blow ever violently behind me,
Pushing me forward faster than I want to go,
To unfamiliar places, to what is yet to be.

At the same time a gentler wind,
Almost a breeze, blows softly in my face,
Urging me backwards to where I have been,
To the familiar, to what was and is no more.

I am moving in opposite directions,
And that feels good.
I embrace the hope and promise of what lies ahead,
And find comfort in the memories of the past.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Journey in words

MY ART



I cannot describe what I feel when hose first washes of color and lines are placed on the paper, and the subject begins to take form.

It becomes – it simply becomes – and I am an intricate and vital part of that becoming. I am part of the birth of that image, an image that will eventually be seen by another.  Perhaps they will be able to share in that becoming when some part of their life, and a memory, or feeling, tucked quietly away somewhere will be awakened.

And their life, for a brief moment, will be linked to mine.

6/80



FOR ME




Who would know my dreams, my fears
All the hopes through all the years

My rooms, my spaces, large and small
Would anyone really care, at all

Books and journals, neat and tattered
Which in my time were all that mattered

An empty pen, long since gone dry
That in its time kept my

World of dreams and aspirations
Bound in notes and illustrations

When I depart for who knows where
Will anybody really care

About all the things I cherished so
And with great reluctance, let them go

2/21/78

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I AM NO ONE HERE


I AM NO ONE HERE


  
I call my name
And no one hears

The song began so long ago
I heard it once
And did not know

How clear the clouded dreams
Seen only by the blinded heart
Or so it seems

Soft and gently across my soul
Outrageous winds
Continually roll

We claim the mystery that is ours
As despair retreats
Before silent tears of joyous hours

1984

Monday, December 2, 2013

Some days are heavy with sadness


SHE IS LEAVING




The day is heavy
The impeding loss is great

From some inner darkness
A voice cries out……wait

I need more time for things unsaid
For words, for memories…

Anything to avoid the dread




THE SADNESS OF THE WORLD


 
And I feel all the sadness of the world
There must be a place within me that belongs to
Every man – every where – of every time

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Finding the way


THE NAVIGATOR


 
Without our hearts to guide us, we lose our way
On paths so dimly lit

Our heart
Will see where our eyes cannot see
Will hear what our ears cannot hear
Will know what our mind cannot know

It is the link to our soul
The navigator of life’s journey

1980





BEING

 
The courage to be
The wisdom to know who to be

12/78

Saturday, November 30, 2013

WANDERING





 
We wander through a world clouded by a gray mist
Among the changing, shapeless forms, loving or indifferent
Marking us

The truth, as always, is there
Waiting to be uncovered
As we seek to claim that part of the infinite which belongs to us

Focusing inward we penetrate the heavy veil
And glimpse with blinding clarity
What is meant to be

At that fleeting moment – when inward and outward are one
We encounter our own truths – reflected by a willing soul

Rejoice and reap the harvest sowed in darkness
It must sustain us through the lean seasons
Until the next fruitful encounter

1/78

Friday, November 29, 2013

-->
QUESTIONS



By our questions we are known,

The questions are the source of light – the seasoning,
More important then the answers,
Knowing what questions to ask.

Do not despair the questions,
They arise from within,
Laden with wisdom beyond understanding.

The journey is guided by our questions.

1/78